Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Bel Canto

Japanese businessman Mr. Hosokawa loves opera, and opera singer Roxanne Coss in particular. In an effort to lure him into opening a factory there, a South American country invites Coss to sing at a birthday party they host for Mr. Hosokawa also attended by many foreign businessman and diplomats. During Coss’ performance, a guerrilla group takes over the building and holds the attendees hostage. The plan backfires, as the target, the president of the country, had decided not to attend at the last minute. Once the less important people and the women, with the exception of Roxanne, are released, the remaining hostages are kept for months. There are lots of language barriers, between the terrorists and the hostages and among the hostages themselves, who are mostly foreigners. They are aided by Mr. Hosokawa’s translator, Gen, and the power of music in the form of Roxanne’s performances. As the novel builds toward its inevitable conclusion, relationships are formed, priorities shift, and barriers are crossed. I loved this novel for its unusual premise, its sense of shared humanity, and its beautiful writing, which is almost operatic in nature to match its subject.

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